I am finding it really hard to believe, but it is one year to the day since we have launched the Environmental Physiotherapy Association and so much has happened in so little time. Evidently, the COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed the last six months of this time, but even with the virus still keeping the world in suspense, the EPA has made truly remarkable progress in advancing planetary health, environmental and sustainability perspectives across physiotherapy research, practice, and education.
Since the publication of our call for a new environmental physiotherapy and the launch of the EPA on 14 August 2019 we have grown into an over 300 members strong association with more and more physiotherapy clinicians, students and academics regularly joining our ranks. Over the course of our first year, 19 EPA members have contributed a total of 34 blogpost in 3 languages exploring diverse, urgent and exciting topics of interest to an environmentally aware and responsible physiotherapy profession. With many more blogposts in the works, topics covered so far have included:
- Greenspace exposure, chronic pain and outdoor rehabilitation from both clinician and patient perspectives: here, here, here, and here;
- The importance of environmental physiotherapy education: here, here, and here;
- Indigenous perspectives on environmental physiotherapy: here;
- The link between COVID-19, environmental issues and physiotherapy: here, and here;
- Advances in making physiotherapy clinics more sustainable: here, and here;
- The Sustainable Development Goals;
- Theoretical explorations of the relationship between physiotherapy and the environment: here, and here;
- Animals in physiotherapy;
- Possibilities for environmental physiotherapy practice: here, here, here, and here;
- and many more…
Filip Maric (PhD)
PT, EPA Founder
Filip Maric is a physiotherapist and researcher interested in the outer rims of healthcare and physiotherapy, practical philosophy, ethics, #EnviroPT, planetary health and sea kayaking.
Toward the end of last year, we live-streamed the first ever Environmental Physiotherapy Roundtable, which has, by now, been viewed on youtube over 300 times and the second roundtable is scheduled to take place at the end of this year (details to be announced in a couple of months).
Several members of the EPA have also held and facilitated the first few environmental physiotherapy workshops, seminars and presentations at universities and conferences around the world. Many more are already scheduled to take place in the second half of 2020 and well beyond, so the ball is well and truly roling so more and more physiotherapy students, clinicians, academics and professional representatives will be hearing, learning and talking about planetary health, environmental physiotherapy, environmental sustainability, etc etc in our second year of existence. The upcoming In Beta Unconference 2020 will even feature an entire stream dedicated to environmental physiotherapy education and we are really excited about this opportunity.
In just this first year, the EPA has also launched or joined a range of interdisciplinary research and education projects seeking to improve the environmental sustainability of healthcare services and systems, develop meaningful and compassionate care for refugees and climate migrants, develop the theoretical foundations of planetary health, and explore the potential of greenspace exposure and outdoor rehabilitation. All sorts of new projects are now regularly being launched by around the world and we are in the fortunate position of being invited to contribute to many of them. We could not be more grateful about this, but are particularly encouraged by the fact that the broad topic areas that we have set our sights on are simply becoming a more staple element of international healthcare research, practice and education.
Our biggest project to date, the EPT Agenda 2023 has now been signed by nearly 200 people from all walks of our profession and fourteen professional organisations across physiotherapy, sustainable healthcare, and planetary health have formally expressed their support for the Agenda. Critically, twelve physiotherapy education institutions from Chile, Greece, South Africa, UK, USA, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, NZ and the Netherlands have already joined the EPT Agenda 2023 as participating institutions, with many more in close conversations to join. Together, these institutions and organisations will produce an undoubtedly invaluable open-access inspiration-base for the sharing and further development of environmental physiotherapy education. Though the Agenda is set up as a four year plan, we are planning to take this online as early as next year to maximise transparency and collaboration in achieving the critical goal we have set for the Agenda:
To ensure that every student beginning entry-level physiotherapy education from 2020 onwards will have education regarding the relationship between the environment, human health and functioning, and how this pertains to physiotherapy as part of their programme.
With all of this in the books and so much more in the works for the year ahead I am nothing short of excited and, I want to say, even positive about the future. This is not an easy thing for me to say, because, quite frankly, much of the issues we are dealing with are all but rosy. Environmental destruction continues to devastate the Earth, greenhouse gas emissions are still on the rise, hectare after hectare of forest continues to be cut down, and plastic particles are now to be found in rainwater, nearly every inch of our oceans and even arctic snow, to name just a few. And time and time again, all of these problems are hitting the poorest, the marginalised and the most vulnerable sooner, harder and with longer lasting ramifications than all others.
Caused by the same social and environmental issues that are driving today’s social, environmental and health crises, COVID-19 is proving that there is nothing more urgent or important that addressing the very issues that the we have set out to help tackle. Difficult as these issues may be and as much as remains to be done, there is certainly also encouragement, a moment of reprieve and even reason for celebration to be found in everything we have achieved so far. On the back of our work in just one year, I am happy, energised and confident we will achieve even more in the time ahead and help our profession make a significant contribution to the greatest health challenge of our time.
Thank you all for being part of this incredible year and bringing your passion, energy and drive to our work.